Friday, June 10, 2011

[Shefa] Mi'Sheberach on Shabbat??


This week’s Torah Sparks raises an interesting point on saying a mi’sheberach on Shabbat.

“Halachah L’Maaseh”

“In Parashat Beha’alotecha, Moses sets an important liturgical precedent by offering a brief prayer for Miriam’s recovery from illness (in this case, her leprosy). His five-word prayer is quoted in the Shabbat hymn Yedid Nefesh. Petitionary prayers offered on Shabbat– even for health – are a matter of halachic controversy, especially if they are on behalf of people who are not dangerously ill (see Tosefta Shabbat 17:15). The practice of reciting a Mi-Sheberach for the sick during the Shabbat morning Torah service, however, is widespread. Rabbi Jacob Emden objects to this practice, though he states that it is not necessary to interfere with such a well-established liturgical pattern (Responsa She’eilat Yaabetz 1:64). Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ruled that a Mi-Sheberach may be recited on Shabbat at the explicit request of the patient, even if the illness is not serious (Responsa Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:105). The Talmud (Shabbat 12B) instructs that when we pray for a person who is ill, we should add prayers for others who are also afflicted: thus the phrase b’toch she’ar cholei Yisrael (“together with others among the Jewish community who are ill”) in the Mi-Sheberach. Such expansiveness of spirit and empathy is said to make a person’s prayers more worthy of Divine attention. Midrash Genesis Rabbah 53:19 says that prayers sincerely offered by the patient are considered more effective than those offered by others on her or his behalf.”1

I have often felt torn at the thought of getting in line and saying the name of a sick person in public (so as not to call attention to them and embarrassing them and because it disrupts the flow of the service, coming as it does near the end of the Torah service.)  We even say that “…although Shabbat is a time to refrain from petitions…” (Siddur Sim Shalom p.144) yet we do it anyway. I find it an odd contradiction, especially in light of the above discussions. Yet, I still do it. We are an interesting people.


1 United Synagogue Website Torah Sparks (,  retrieved from the internet June 10, 2011



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